Apr 24, 2017

Steirereck - Modern Austrian Cuisine, where I Find Pickles are Kings

Do you know what is Austrian cuisine or even so "Viennese" cuisine? I had no idea when I first set foot in Austria, but I left that puzzle to Steirereck. Known for its modern Austrian cuisine, this futuristic-looking restaurant sits inside Stadpark and welcomes visitors around the world.


Trying out a couple of Michelin restaurants while traveling has become a habit of mine over the years. There aren't too many starred eateries in Vienna that emphasizes on Austrian dishes, so the choice was easy. Just upon my return back home, news came in that Steirereck was honored no.10 on 2017's World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Indeed, their food did live up the praises.


There is one other restaurant right next to Steirereck called Meierei, kind of like a sister branch concept. While Steirereck carries a more formal fine dining vibe, Meierei leans toward the casual side. These two places share some of the resources, such as the cheese room with hundreds of varieties downstairs. 


The avant-garde looking metal façade reflects the surroundings, the trees, the sky, somehow the restaurant and the environment blend together, coexist in the park in a very peaceful way.



Unlike the exterior, inside the restaurant was channeled by industrial wood with floral arrangement on each table. A more soothing vibe so to speak.

Just like when we were back at EVDARD, our meal started with local sparkling wine -


They put one book next to each table, and ours was les grandes tables du monde 2017 -


Flipped a few pages and found Steirereck among these great restaurants.

Menu -


Surprisingly there were quite a few varieties to choose from. On top of full on tasting courses, simpler dishes were also provided. Guests can choose from 4-course set or 7-course set, wine pairings are optional.

We felt fearless and decided to go for the 7 courses, but held back on the wine pairing, just the sparkling in the beginning and one extra glass of wine for each of us.

Here it came the bread cart -


The server went through the varieties as I tried to keep up with names and ingredients. For sure I was lost somewhere, but still managed to pick a few interesting ones. 


Just when I thought I selected quite a number of bread for the table, the serve went on and started asking what Mister would like to choose. Well, he wasn't paying much attention I supposed, let it be the same for both of us please.

Black pepper pork cracking, double-baked, lavender honey, and chia seeds -


Served with butter and salt powder -


No kidding, just by eating these bread along was worth the trip to dine at Steirereck, especially for the black pepper pork cracking bread on the top right -


The aroma reminiscent of long baked pancetta. Not greasy at all, only that dense cracking aroma left, it's macho bread.

Mister was fond of that extra crunchy bite from the double-baked bread -


Not rushing to our first course yet, here it came some small bites -


Usually there is one or two smaller dishes to start the meal, but it definitely took me by surprise with our entire table full of food, a pleasant surprise though.


Every course came with its own little information card, but server will also explain a little when presenting the dishes.


The card shows that "Austrian cuisine was deeply associated with the Austrian monarchy and was always influenced by the people and regions of their crown lands." More so a melting pot but each region still has its own unique way of food preparation. 

As for "Viennese" cuisine, it is the only cuisine in the world named after a city. Think of American food vs. Los Angeles food and you'll grasp the idea. 


While each dish carries its own characteristics, one thing I found in common was the use of pickled and marinated ingredients. Let it be an intense flavor boost or just a backdrop for the sauce, nearly all dishes throughout the meal involved some kind of pickles. In a way "sourness" was presented in these dishes, but well integrated instead of a strong hit on the palate. 

First course: chicorée with salted physalis, chestnuts and Sungold -


In this dish you'll also find buttermilk, cous cous, cabbage and miso, marinated bitter salad, and tarragon oil.

It might appear on the lighter side, but the flavors were actually quite strong. With each moist yet crunchy element in my mouth, sourish seasoning dominates but with a slight touch of bitterness, it's salad for grownups.

Different utensils for every dish -


Mister's second course: "Reinanke" with cornel cherry, yacón and stonecrop -


"Confited, glazed Reinanke (fish) with cornel cherry, Meyer lemon, and red elderflower." 
"Roasted yacón root with spiced pumpkin, stonecrop and grains of paradise." 
"Steamed and marinated stonecrop." 
"Pumpkin jus with cornel cherry and Tonka bean."

Our single glass wine pairing recommended by the sommelier -



My second course: crayfish with bittersalad, Jerusalem artichoke and green almonds -


"Crayfish grilled with coffee butter."
"Marinated foie gras."
"Cream of Jerusalem artichoke."
"Jerusalem artichoke and bittersalad flavored with crayfish marinade and coffee oil."
"Crispy peel of Jerusalem artichoke."
"Red onions pickled with lingonberry."
"Preserved green almonds."
"Roasted crayfish and Jerusalem artichoke sauce."



It's amazing how much details and work put behind every single dish here, not to mention every plate was like a piece of art. 

This dish was both high in acidity and sweetness, rounded by the dense aroma from the foie gras. Packed with strong flavors yet maintaining that perfect balance at the high point.

Third course: pike perch with fennel, pericon and schönbrunner' calamansi -


The key ingredient is pike perch, but the star is definitely the fennel. Layered with Neusetzer speck, which is the back fat from 18-month-old Mangalitza pork. Wait, the story doesn't end there, the fat was further ripened with lavender and basil in basalt stone troughs for another 12 months.

That is one good looking fennel.


Mister's fourth course: salsify with kohlrabi, coconut and Périgord truffle -


"Salsify braised in coconut milk."
"Burnt kohlrabi with brown butter."
"Marinated kohlrabi with coconut water and rice vinegar."
"Steamed kohlrabi leaves."
"Périgord truffle."

"Sweet and sour kohlrabi with young coconut."
"Périgord truffle-mandarin verjus vinaigrette."
"Sour cream."

My fourth course: Pogusch lamb with romanesco, chanterelles and walnut leaf -


Did I mention that Steirereck has its own garden? Many of the ingredients used were actually sourced right next to the restaurant. 


Steirereck used the best end of Pogusch lamb, it was so tender, and felt like almost each single cell on that meat fully absorbed the seasonings. To make it even more awesome, many pickled and marinated elements were incorporated such as pickled chanterelles and marinated romanesco. It happened that I'm the person who absolutely adore sourish food. It might be the best piece of lamb I've ever had so far.

Mister's fifth course: pigeon with parsnip, cyclame and turnip -


The texture is what left a mark on my memory. Just like concentrated foie gras, it was almost creamy so to speak.

My fifth course: veal liver dumplings with swede, Japanese artichoke, and red cabbage -


"Fried, boiled liver dumplings."
"Braised red cabbage with candied swede and star anise."
"In thistle oil sautéed Japanese artichoke."
"Swede puree with pomelo"
"Crispy red cabbage and onions."
"Nasturtium."
"Veal broth with lovage."


Sixth course: Fresh cheese with rhubarb and sweet clover -


The other option for the sixth course was selected cheeses from Meierei. However, since the menu offered "refreshment" instead of the usual cheese selection, of course I dived straight ahead.


It was pretty fun!

The server brought over this cake-mold looking thing with fine mesh. The "device" was placed over a plate with rhubarb and haymilk ice cream. 



The fresh sour milk cheese was gently put on top of the mesh and cut into slices. The serve gave it a gentle shake to separate the cheese slices. While we ate the cheese with the pinkish sauce, whey stared dripping down to the plate on the bottom. 


Then we started digging the rhubarb, ice cream, and fresh sour milk cheese whey. Candied celery was also presented in this course. Perhaps a little resistant at first, but candied celery actually taste quite like guava, even texture-wise too. Okay, celery as dessert can be attractive too.



Mister's seventh course: Forelle pear with spruce tips, parsnip, and rose mallow -


"Forelle pear braised with spruce tip syrup and verjus."
"Puffy parsnip-rye milk loaf with rose mallow."
"Parsnip and hays milk ice cream."
"Pear and spruce-tip braising jus."


My seventh course: Viennese malt with quince, sea buckthorn, and lavender -


It was somewhat like a cold soufflé, but I felt quite a resistance when my fork went in, like cutting a hard marshmallow or semifreddo. The fun part was that immediately after the dessert went in my mouth, it was gone.

Like nothing ever happened, the not-so-soft dessert just disappeared in my mouth.

Still amazed by the texture, here it came our petit four after all seven courses -


It looked like a simple rectangular cart at first, but the server kept extending it, revealing many compartments within. 

Another playful concept. The server asked if we want "refreshing" or "aromatic," and we got one for each. So the server started assembling all the ingredients in the glass. 



Some fruit balls and yogurt on the bottom, covered with sugary paper and some other elements in the center. 


"Just grab the edges and pick it up like a little purse" he said. 
Had to be quick, otherwise the sugary paper started to melt and the purse won't hold for that long. 


The refreshing version consists of "marinated citrus fruit with elder and dried pear." The aromatic version consists of "orange blossoms with apricot, yogurt, and quinoa."

"What about the bottom part?" I asked,
"Use a spoon or just drink it, whatever you'd like."

Also some dried citrus for the nibble. 


Here's a little fact about these citrus, displayed on the little card:
"Since 1647 citrus plants have been cultivated in the Orangery of the royal park Schönbrunn. Nowadays the collection comprises about 100 varieties, about 35 of them are historical. Europe-wise this diversity is unrivaled."


Before we left Steirereck, the server asked if we want to walk around and check out other spaces. 


Bar area - 



Other dining space facing the riverbank - 


Semi-open kitchen - 


Part of the wine collection -


Long live the pickles!


After 3.5 hours, vaguely I grasped what Austrian cuisine is. Even though just by the tip of the iceberg, but for sure I left with a delicious impression in mind. The regional ingredients, food preservation, yes, these flavorful pickles seemed to intertwined across borders. And all these prompted my urge to find out more about Austrian cuisine. 


Steirereck currently holds 2 Michelin stars and no.10 on 2017's World's 50 Best Restaurants list.


Steirereck

At the Heumarkt 2A / in the Stadtpark A-1030 Vienna 
+43 (1) 713 31 68
Website: https://www.steirereck.at/


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